Commonly Confused Adverbs

Adverbs and adjectives can often be confused. On this page I will help you to understand the difference.

First, take a look at a few sentences:

I have a fast car.

I have a fast car, and I drive very fast.

Which use of fast is an adjective and which is an adverb?

The first sentence has an adjective, the second has an adjective with an irregular adverb at the end of the sentence.

So, let’s take a look at some more examples:

Late/lately – Have you ever arrived late to an English lesson? Have you seen Jack lately?

The first sentence is asking if you have ever arrived after the scheduled time of a lesson. E.g. (For example) the lesson is at half past nine (9.30) in the morning and you arrive at twenty-five to ten (9.35). The second sentence is asking you if you have seen Jack recently. E.g. Have you seen him in the last few days or weeks.

daily – I get a newspaper daily. I read a daily newspaper.

So the first sentence here is a sentence adverb as we can see it finishes the sentence. The second is an adjective. It goes before the noun.

loving/lovely – He is a loving father. He is a lovely father. This food is lovely.

Here we can see three examples: The first one contains an adjective, the second is also an adjective, the final one is not an adverb even though it follows a verb. It is a structure which we use with the verb be and adjectives to give more information to a noun.

friendly – He is a friendly character, always keen to help.

Although it looks like an adverb, it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing .(It is not authentic, but something else in disguise.)

lively – He is often lively when he has eaten too many sweets.

Once again, we see a word that looks similar to an adverb, though plays the part of an adjective. (For definitions and explanations click the word which is highlighted in blue.)


loud/loudly – The neighbour was playing loud music until 2 a.m. last night. The mobile phone was ringing loudly.

As we can see from these examples above, the first example shows an adjective. The second uses an adverb to give more information to the verb.

hard/hardly – He was working hard all weekend. He was hardly working while he was sitting at his desk. He was just staring into space.

These two examples highlight a common error often created by non-native English speakers. The first is in fact an adverb as it follows a verb, the second is also an adverb, though it describes something completely different. They have the opposite meaning in that the first one means the person was working a lot. The second means the person was not working very much.

So as you can see, it is important to study grammar sometimes. However, it is more important to practise these grammar areas.

Thanks for reading.

Teacher Dominic.


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